Times Change–and So Do I

monarch-emerging“While all changes do not lead to improvement, all improvement requires change.” –UNKNOWN

In a matter of days, I’ll be moving from Key West to L.A. (a distance, according to the handy-dandy mileage calculator on the interwebs, of 2,282 miles). I’m super-excited, a bit anxious, and…well, those two emotions pretty much cover it. I’m moving cross-country to be with my girlfriend Kari, aka the love of my life, and because the opportunities there for me as a writer are a thousandfold greater than here.

Obviously, the concept of change has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Not just because of my impending move, but also because my (relatively) recent sobriety, and all the incredible changes that have accompanied it, have altered practically every facet of my being. Also, unfortunately my mother’s health is not good, so I’m starting to try to wrap my brain around how I’ll live my life without her around.

So in between my packing of suitcases, my scrubbing of the bathroom, and deciding whether I wanna keep assorted knick-knacks like my tin of bacon-flavored gumballs (yeah, I’ll probably hang on to those), let’s see what we can discover about the idea of “change”—and how I (and anybody else) can improve our lives because of it.

One part of the dictionary definition of “change”—the active verb form, anyway—is “to transform.” And “transformation” has pretty much defined my existence as of late. In 2012 I moved from the Syracuse, N.Y. area, a region that normally gets more snow than anywhere else in the nation, to Key West, Fla., where…I’ll just say there’s never been a frost, and leave it at that. Not long after my move, I was blessed to find the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, and in the two-plus years since, my life has changed immeasurably. Because of AA’s 12 Steps, I’ve undergone a complete moral overhaul. For the past two years or so I’ve lived in a sober house (in a program for which I now work). And because I no longer blow all my money on booze, I still have a few bucks in the bank at the end of every month, for the first time in…well, ever.

My point is, my life has already vastly improved, with more progress soon to come. I feel more like a “whole” person, as if I’ve finally joined the human race. And soon after my move, Kari and I plan on getting married and starting a family. (And don’t start grilling me with the questions! All we know at this point is that we both want it to happen.)

These are all super-positive developments, of course. I’m no longer in the “comfort zone” I got stuck in for three decades. (And upon my relocation, I’ll continue to be “comfort-zoneless” for a time.) And that’s just fine with me. Why, you ask? Here are several reasons:

All these changes are the impetus for some enormous personal growth. My recovery, and the 12-Step work I’ve done as part of it, have obviously been a huge component. But to me, changes allow me to learn more about myself. When faced with new situations, I think, people are sort of “forced” to bring out the best in themselves. When I’m looking for a job in L.A., for example, my potential employers aren’t gonna meet just “me,” but John fucking TURNER. (So get ready, L.A. workforce!)

Change helps me be as flexible as a gold-medal gymnast. Obviously, when someone undergoes change, they become more adaptable to new situations, environments, and people. And that adaptability improves when things don’t go according to his/her plans (which, of course, they rarely do), because of the need to adjust plans according to the change in circumstance. (This reminds of a great joke: “Wanna make God laugh? Just tell him your plans.”)

It’s all about the snowballin’. I started small, by not taking a drink one day at a time. Then I made shifts in values, started saving money…at some point I had the presence of mind (and a newfound relationship with God) which allowed me to start a relationship with Kari, who would’ve previously been totally out of my league. And now I’m moving cross-country to be with her. So in essence, tiny changes have led to huge ones.

Four words: change leads to strength. I think any change, whether big or small, requires focus. And depending on where you choose to put your focus, you’re a stronger person once you get through it. Whether it’s my upcoming move or my mother’s health issues, I know for certain I’ll be a better man once I’ve dealt with the situation.

Renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” For me personally, it’s been some of both. A change in situation—my move to Key West–sort of forced me to change myself. And those self-changes led (and are leading) to situational changes, which will change me again…and on and on. So maybe it’s a sort of cycle between changing of self and situation.

And you could also call that “life.”